What does it mean to dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6)?

At the close of one of the most soul-soothing passages in all the Bible, King David triumphantly announced, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6).

Being in God’s presence meant everything to David. Since he shared such a close relationship with the Lord, David could picture himself as a permanent resident in God’s house, basking in His constant goodness, love, and care every day. And because death held the promise of eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom, David looked forward to the intimate and never-ending fellowship of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

The word dwell in Psalm 23:6 means “to inhabit or live.” The house of the Lord is a term often referring to the tabernacle, the temple, or the place of worship (as in Psalm 122:1). But here in Psalm 23:6 the phrase speaks explicitly of “a dwelling house, palace, or local residence of a deity.”

The presence of God is the believer’s true home (Psalm 42:1–4; 84:1–4). “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house,” declared David in Psalm 65:4. And again in Psalm 27:4, we read of David’s passionate and singular pursuit: “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). To dwell in the house of the Lord forever was David’s deepest longing. Scripture says he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14).

Like David, the apostle Paul was sure that nothing in this life, not even death itself, could separate him from the loving presence of God: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

While preaching on Psalm 23, Charles Spurgeon said, “While I am here I will be a child alone with my God; the whole world will be His house to me; and when I ascend unto the upper chamber I shall not change my company, nor even change the house. I shall only go to dwell in the upper story of the house of the Lord forever” (quoted by Campbell, R., Spurgeon’s Daily Treasures in the Psalms: Selections from the Classic Treasury of David, Kregel Publications, 2013, entry for February 19).

To dwell in the house of the Lord forever also suggests living with an attitude of heart that expresses constant praise and worship. In Psalm 34:1, David exclaimed, “I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises” (NLT). Another psalmist declared, “What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises” (Psalm 84:4, NLT).

According to Psalm 84:10, one day spent worshiping in God’s house is better than a thousand anywhere else. The verse continues: “I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT). “Praise the LORD!” says another psalm. “Let all that I am praise the LORD. I will praise the LORD as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath” (Psalm 146:1–2, NLT).

The good things that God provides for us in this life are merely a foretaste of what awaits us in heaven (1 Corinthians 2:9; Isaiah 64:4). A glorious future day is coming when all the redeemed of the Lord will gather around the Lord’s table in His eternal house (Isaiah 25:6–9; Matthew 22:1–14; Luke 13:29–30; Revelation 19:9; 21:2–4). In heaven, as we dwell in the house of the Lord forever, we will enjoy full, uninterrupted communion with God (1 Corinthians 13:12).

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